Solving the “Hidden Hunger” Problem

hidden hunger image

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three American adults are obese, with eighteen percent of children being obese as well. With so many Americans being critically overweight, it’s curious that Barbara Bush, daughter of George W. Bush, considers these Americans to be hungry.

Barbara, one of the founders of the Global Health Corp, talks about “hidden hunger” as the real epidemic in America.

It’s called “hidden hunger” because it manifests itself as obesity. Many Americans consume a high number of empty calories, but don’t eat anything of nutritional value. The result is overweight Americans with unhealthy bodies.

“The challenges of malnutrition are the same, but the issues present themselves differently,” she says. “When we think of hunger we think of starving children in UNICEF ads, but in the U.S. it doesn’t look like that – it looks like kids or people who are obese. They are consuming food, but not the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.”

Unfortunately, this is too true. In recent years, studies done by the Journal of Nutrition have shown that more than half of all American children don’t get the proper amount of vitamins necessary for healthy, normal development.

Children that aren’t receiving proper nourishment are less healthy, and as a result, also under-perform in school. “It’s a pretty devastating thing to realize that the first years of a child’s life can impact them so completely. But I think the good news is knowing that means there can be very targeted programs.”

Ms. Bush is adamant that by beginning the initiative with educating children, it can begin to have a long lasting, multi-generational impact. “If you can reach kids, you can usually reach their parents and their entire families.”

DSM, a global science-based company that is active in the health and nutrition fields, is funding the Global Health Corps programs. These programs are geared towards confronting the inadequate nutrition in lower income communities. Hugh Walsh, the North American president of DSM has said “When you look at the disease situation in the U.S., a lot of it is lifestyle related. We can mitigate or prevent so much of the disease.”

Some of the problem seems to lie in difficulty gaining access to grocery stores to buy healthy food. Ms. Bush has stated that some families must take three different buses in order to reach a grocery store. Fast food, however, is literally around every corner.

As the CEO of the Global Health Corps, Bush is committed to the idea that proper nutrition is something that everyone, regardless of income or background, should have access to. As stated in the Global Health Corps mission statement, “We believe that every person has the right to live a healthy, dignified life. We also believe that everyone has a role to play in advancing social justice through the health equity movement.” Hopefully, these programs will solve the “hidden hunger” problem and benefit Americans for generations to come.

Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey / Foter / CC BY

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